I wonder why Garry Trudeau chose to devote this week's strips to recapitulating what his regular readers have known and accepted to the point of taking it for granted for years.
Mike Doonesbury isn't the central character anymore.
As if the title has ever just referred to a character. It's been a brand name almost since the beginning. But still. Alex has been the heart of the strip for at least five years, since she went off to college. (She's in grad school now.) And she started moving front and center well before that. Mike Doonesbury was never the star of Doonesbury. He was the centering character more than the central one and the strip was never about him. The same has been true for Alex since she's been taking over. The strip isn't about her.
Doonesbury is about the way we live now. All the main characters have been our guides into whatever neighborhoods of the zeitgeist Trudeau has decided to explore. This is why it hasn't mattered when any or all of them have disappeared for extended periods of time. took the coaching job at Walden and the two of them became the only two of the main characters responsible for taking care of the next generation. Trudeau has never used his characters' parenthood to explore that theme. Over at the Redfern-Caucus house, the story has been adolescent (and arrested adolescent) rebellion and father-son rivalry. Meanwhile, at Mike and Kim's, Alex has been in a sweet and safe way out of their control from the start and in many ways and definitely in her own mind she's been taking care of Mike. she's always been the adult. It's something he had to do. It's the natural progression of the story he began to tell in the mid 1980s when the strip returned from hiatus and Trudeau put into effect the decision he'd made while on break to have his characters start aging in something close to real time.
If he'd gone the Funky Winkerbean route and picked up his characters at the points in their lives where they ought to have been in 1985 if they'd started college in 1970, we'd have met them again in their mid-thirties. Instead, Trudeau ratcheted everybody's age down. They were no longer his contemporaries. They were now nebulously twenty-something. I see it in the lives of my other brothers and sisters as their children are moving all together into young adulthood. I see it in my old friend Gary who played Mike in a Doonesbury revue I put together back in college and who became a grandfather over the winter. I see it in my own life now that Young Ken Mannion has starred college and Oliver is devoting much of his time and energy to developing his future career as a teacher. But I've felt it coming for a good long while.
Possibly because I was watching it happen in Doonesbury.
Like I said, I'm not surprised it's happened. I'm just a little surprised Trudeau feels the need to make a big deal out of it. And, also like I said, I wonder why now.
Maybe it struck him as the right way to follow up on Alex and Toggle's wedding before moving on with Fake Omega Watches having them move on with their lives.
But then, why not now? It's a change worth acknowledging. It's a change that needs to be acknowledged. And I'm not talking about what's going on in the comic strip.
We're not done. But we have to face it. The story of our lives is no longer the story of our life.
There comes a point it's time for the reboot.
Agreed that Trudeau has always, in his own subtle key and ingratiating way (in the original, mostly positive sense of "ingratiating"), been aiming to be our Trollope/Thackeray at the very least. I look forward (nudge, nudge) to a post somewhere down the line about whether Doonesbury or The Wire is the Great American Post-1960 Novel (let get clear enough of the war, *the* war, to have a reasonable picture) and why. Or whether (my vote) they are complementary and both required to tell the story in something like full. (Now, in the shorter time frame of the replica omega watches 21st Century I would throw in Marvel Civil War series, but these -- Doonesbury and The Wire -- are tales woven on a bigger frame.)
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